Welcome back to rsts11travel. Today we’re going to review some portable battery pack options for charging your phones and tablets. We’ll be featuring products we’ve bought from Anker, Aukey, Nomad, and Apple.
Check out the previous installment for our recommendations on cables and AC adapters, which you’ll probably need to keep your battery packs charged up on the go.
There are lots of options, and we’ll only cover about a quarter of what’s in our various travel bags, but this will give you a reasonable starting point for most equipment.
Charged with battery?
First, if you have those 2200mAh square or round batteries, put them away, donate them, or recycle them. These are often made with cheaper components, often don’t hold a charge between trips, and with modern battery packs holding as much as 12 times as much juice, the old freebies are not going to serve you very well anyway.
If you have ancient USB chargers from phones that didn’t have color screens, or honestly anything less than 5V/1A, donate them to a local thrift store.
Second, take note of what you need to charge. If you have USB-C and/or devices that use an adaptive fast charge model like Qualcomm Quickcharge, your options may be reduced, but smarter batteries like those from Anker, Aukey, and even Nomad can give you optimized fast charging with or without the QC standard. If you have devices that charge from standard USB type A (like most Apple and Samsung devices), you won’t have much trouble finding the right battery. And most USB-C items can be charged from a USB-A port with the right cable, albeit a bit slower.
Third, consider how many devices you need to charge at a time. Port count on your battery is important, and will affect the price. Be sure to check the amperage per port; 5 ports with total 5A is disappointing, whereas 5 ports with 2.4A each is just about right (look for 10-12 watts per port to ensure you’ll get good charging speed no matter how many ports you use).
With those considerations in mind, here are our first-round suggestions to get you started. These are meant to fit in a jacket pocket or purse; we have much larger packs that can power a laptop or a small fridge, but we’ll discuss those another time.
Aukey 30000mAh charger with dual input ($44.99)
This is the brick we bring to conferences and long drives. With QuickCharge 3.0 support as well as Aukey’s proprietary AiPower, you can optimize charging of any device up to about 18W. It does weigh a bit over a pound, but less than an iPad Pro and it should charge your iPad Pro 3 full times.
If you use iDevices, you don’t have to bring a MicroUSB cable along, as one of the two charging inputs is Lightning. However, if you need to charge up this brick overnight, you may want to speed the charging along with one of each type of cable! (This is where a two-port wall adapter is going to be useful, or a Portapow cable with the in-room USB port.)
If you want something a bit more graceful, Anker’s PowerCore+ 26800mAh pack ($79.99) is a good single-input alternative with three USB output ports, and a PowerPort+ 1 charger included to more quickly charge the pack (9 hours instead of 16 with standard chargers). It has a smooth finish but weighs about the same as the one above.
Note, the power bank in the photo above is actually the Aukey 30000mAh charger with dual input, MicroUSB and USB-C, not Lightning. It looks pretty much the same, with the exception of the USB-C input vs the lightning input, but alas, as of this writing it’s no longer available on Amazon.
Nomad Goods Powerpack with Tile ($99, discounts available)
This 9000mAh pack is very light for its capacity, and features USB-C 3A (with 2A at 9V and 12V) and 5V USB-A 2.4A outputs that can be used simultaneously up to 27W. This won’t quite power your USB-C laptop, but tablets should be okay.
It carries a bit of a price premium because of the ruggedized design and the integrated Tile tracking feature. If you’ve misplaced as many battery packs as I have in hotel rooms, or even in various laptop bags, this will be a useful feature.
The input, while 5V 3A, is USB-C, so even if you have no USB-C devices, you’ll need to carry a USB-C cable (included with the Powerpack) to recharge.
If you like the size but not the price or the Tile tracking or the USB-C option, Anker’s Powercore 10000 comes in a QC 3.0 version ($32.99) and a standard version ($23.99) with a single USB-A output port at 5V 2.4A. The standard version was rsts11travel’s first giveaway.
Anker Powercore 5000 ($16.99)
Remember those lipstick batteries we told you to scrap? If you still want something compact and economical, this is what you want. A bit larger than a roll of quarters, the Powercore 5000 sports Micro-USB in for charging, and 5V 2A USB-A out for powering your device. It’s a single port device with a 3-LED power level indicator, and it comes with a carry pouch in case you don’t want it loose in a bag.
If you really want something the size of a lipstick, the Powercore Mini sports 3200mAh with 1A output and the 3-LED power level indicator at $13.99. I own both, and the Mini has a longer shelf life and charges as well as you’d expect from a 1A but with half again the juice of a lipstick battery.
Revisiting chargers — who powers the powerers?
One thing to remember is that with these batteries, if you use them, you’ll have to recharge them. For that reason, you should definitely have a rapid charging AC adapter on hand. If you’re outside the 120V North American market, double-check that any AC adapter will work with your power mains.
With the Nomad Powerpack, you can use your Apple USB-C charger to refuel it. The 29W Macbook adapter is more than enough, and the 15W iPad Pro adapter is just right for 5V/3A. If you don’t have one of these adapters, Anker makes the Powerport 1 USB-C ($23.99) which supports Quick Charge 3.0 for the newer Google phones as well, or a two-port Powerport 2 with USB-A ports at 2.4A each. You can also use any USB-A charger, like Anker’s Powerport 2 (around $10.99) with a USB-A to USB-C cable like the one that comes with the Powerpack.
For some of the really large batteries, which we’ll take a look at later, you can actually charge with two cables (most use two MicroUSB cables, but one in my stash can be charged by a Lightning and a MicroUSB cable in parallel). When you’re talking 26000mAh or more, you can definitely benefit from the double boost.
So where do we go from here?
We’ve covered no more than a third of the accessories we use on a somewhat regular basis here, so there are a lot of other options to consider. We’ll be back later looking at some power packs that let you plug a standard AC cord in, to power a larger laptop, a monitor, a fan, a television, etc…
What has your experience been with mobile power packs? What’s your must-have battery for your laptop case? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments below.
Disclosure: Most links above are affiliate links with Amazon. We have purchased all of the reviewed items ourselves with no consideration from the manufacturer, and any mention here is not meant to imply approval or review by the manufacturer or seller.
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